A group of Muslim clerics have joined some Christian preachers in blaming the superstorm which has devastated areas of America, Haiti and Cuba on the wrath of God.
Anti-American Muslim clerics said Sandy was a divine punishment for a film which mocks the Prophet Mohammad or for other perceived ills of American society. The film caused widespread protest in September as some Muslims demanded its removal from websites.
"Some people wonder about the hurricane in America and its causes," Egyptian hardline cleric Wagdi Ghoneim wrote in two messages on Twitter this week in the aftermath of the storm. "In my opinion, it is revenge from God for the beloved prophet," he added, alluding to the film, Reuters reported.
And, in Saudi Arabia, the cleric Salman al-Audah said the storm, which has killed more than 140 people and rising, was a wake-up call for Americans to convert to Islam.
But the clerics' remarks attracted criticism from other Muslims, who said it was wrong to relish the suffering of others. "God, shake the earth under their feet," read one comment, which prompted the response: "We have brothers and friends in America - I don't wish them any harm."
While Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Abdel Aziz Al Sheik warned that rejoicing over the plight of the suffering runs contrary to Islam, adding that Muslims were among the victims. "It is not legitimate and it is not proper," he told pan-Arab Al-Hayat daily yesterday.
A Twitter response to Ghoneim, however, compared Sandy to a divine wind sent to destroy a sinful nation and strike at the seat of the United Nations in New York. "We ask God to destroy the UN building for its injustice, corruption, tyranny ... with Sandy," Reuters reported.
Others retorted: "This hashtag doesn't represent Muslims but represents a terrorist. We all ask God to help and save Americans."
In Iran, prominent clerics often avoid drawing parallels between natural disasters and divine intervention because their own country has faced devastating earthquakes, such as one in 2003 that killed 26,000 when it hit the ancient city of Bam.
On Wednesday, the Iranian Red Crescent said aid workers were ready to fly to New York to help with recovery efforts, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported. Mahmud Mozaffar, head of Red Crescent's rescue operations, said the Iranian groups had "ample experience" in dealing with natural catastrophes.